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Kathy Sherman, president of the Piqua Chamber of Commerce, said this is one of the many ways the community has come together to make to honor Pitsenbarger. Tickets for the veterans screenings will be free of charge, thanks to a donation from Hartzell Propeller. Veterans’ will be available beginning at 8 a.m. Jan. 17 at the Piqua Board of Education offices, located at 215 Looney Road. Veterans may receive a ticket for themselves and one guest. Ticket availability is on a first-come basis.
A third screening will be opened to the public with tickets available through the Cinemark box office. A Q&A with the film’s writer and director Todd Robinson, producers and veterans of Abilene, will follow each screening.
The ticket donation isn’t the only way the community is giving back. At the mall for the reception, PSC Crane & Rigging will be set up with one of its cranes and a large U.S. flag waving overhead.
“This town is so amazing because it is so giving,” Sherman said.
Paul Sherry car dealership has donated cars to transport people that come in from out of town for the premiere. The full list of who’s attending the big day is still being finalized, but many who either helped make the movie or are depicted in the film will be in Piqua, officials said.
Among those confirmed to be attending are Robinson, Sidney Sherman, a producer; Julian Adams, who is a producer and plays Lt. John Quaid; Travis Aaron Wade, who plays Lt. Tom Allison; as well as real life mud soldiers Phil Hall and Fred Navarro. Navarro has credited Pitsenbarger with saving his life during the Vietnam War.
The people coming in to town will be taken around Piqua and shown the various ways the city honors its veterans, including the Veterans Memorial and Pitsenbarger park, to see the statue erected in his honor in 2015.
There will also be two large banners outside the city’s government center Thursday, and at the reception there will be a life-size portrait of Pitsenbarger.
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At the library there will be a full historical display honoring Pitsenbarger. Along with the film, many will be able to connect with Pitsenbarger’s life and his story.
“We have students who are doing history projects who had no idea who this gentleman was who are now going to know what he did and that it’s somebody that was born and raised in Piqua,” Sherman said.
Pitsenbarger is credited with saving more than 60 men, including nine the day he died. He was offered a chance to escape the battle on a helicopter, but he chose to stay and help out, according to the Air Force Museum foundation.
“He gave so much for soldiers that he fought with side by side and those that he didn’t know,” Sherman said.
He died on the battlefield in 1966, but wasn’t awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor until 34 years later.
“I think that the biggest thing in this movie is that they fought so hard to get him the medal of honor,” Sherman said.
Pitsenbarger flew nearly 300 missions to rescue soldiers and downed pilots during the Vietnam War. He was killed on April 11, 1966 in one of the bloodiest battles of the war while rendering aid and saving the lives of soldiers with the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division during a firefight. The film chronicles the battle to see that “Pits” receive the Medal he had earned.